My dear cousin, Sharon, just dropped by my FB after visiting this blog for the first time and made that comment. Well, Sharon, before January of 2009, I couldn't imagine it either. I didn't think I was capable of writing a whole book. Sure, I'd thought about it for years, kicked around a few ideas, but, I just sat in the ashes and watched the world go by as I dreamed. It wasn't until January 19th of 2009 that I finally acted on that dream.
I guess the real action started nine days earlier, the morning of my 49th birthday on January 10th of that year. I woke up, looked in the mirror, and it was like someone slapped me in the face with a dead carp. Holy crap! My life is more than half over and I have nothing to show for it! Oh, sure. I had my kids (I love you all, sweeties!!) I'd been married for almost 28 years. I was teaching. But I had no passion, nothing I could really claim as my own. I floundered around for the next week, thinking I'm having a mid-life crisis! I used to think a mid-life crisis was just an excuse men used to justify dalliances with younger women or an excuse to purchase a convertible that they tore around in for six months, and then sold back to the dealer while their wives shook their heads, clucking their "I told you so" clucks. But, alas, I found out that the mid-life crisis was real, and I was now in the midst of a major meltdown. So, I floundered. I cried. I reminisced. And I read the Twilight series. That did it.
Allison (my then thirteen-year-old daughter) and I were taking turns reading the series. I found her crying (after I'd done my own share), and asked what was wrong. She said she had just read the part where Edward left Bella without an explanation of why he was leaving, and she went totally catatonic. Could someone really love another person that much? she asked. I smiled, walked to my bedroom, and opened my underwear drawer. The crinkled corner of an envelope yellowed with age protruded from the side of the drawer. I pulled it out, held it to my nose, and inhaled. It smelled old...musty...with a hint of Old Spice. That was his scent. My Edward. My first love.
I walked back to Allison and handed her the envelope. Yes, sweetie, you can love another person that much. Of course, Allison looked at me like I was crazy. I urged her to read the letter. She took it from the envelope and carefully unfolded the delicate, cracking pages. Three in all. Written in perfect script. She read. I watched. She blinked and looked up at me. Several times. When she finished, she lay the pages in her lap. I don't understand. He left you? I shook my head. He was my Edward. Then I explained.
Right before my 16th birthday, my sister set me up on a date with a young man who had started coming into our cafe' with his father and brother. He was a farmer--and a gorgeous one. Way out of my league. I could barely breathe, let alone talk, when I was in his presence. It took awhile, but I was finally able to kiss him without feeling like I was going to faint. I was in love, and, unbelievably, he felt the same way.
One Spring Saturday, after several months of dating, he arrived in the backroom of the cafe'. My mom called me into the back. She looked upset, and busied herself with getting an order out. He was holding a red rose. A smile flitted across his face, then disappeared. I'm moving to California, he said barely above a whisper. I thought I misheard him. What? He repeated himself, and added one word. Tomorrow. After that, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. He left. I made it to the bathroom, threw up, and collapsed. I felt like my life was over. Three months later, I received the letter.
Yes, sweetie, you can love another person that much.
Allison then said the one thing that changed my life. You should write a book. So, I did. By the end of the evening, I had written 1500 words. Within three days, I was up to 8,000. Six months later, writing in the evenings, on weekends, and during vacations when I shouldn't have been writing, I racked up 114,000 words. Over 500 pages. I had written a book. THE TIP TOP CAFE'. I found my passion.
But that was only the beginning of the story...